Top 16 Round 8: Second leg drama awaits!
After taking a break for a week, Turkish Airlines Euroleague action wll resume as Round 8 opens the second half of the Top 16 on Thursday, February 26. As the teams are starting their final push for the playoffs, the first goal of all teams is to qualify for the next round and then to finish as high as possible, with first and second places in each group also earning home-court advantage. Round 7 action is evenly split with four games Thursday and four more on Friday.
Three of the group’s games were on Thursday. Real Madrid defeated Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 85-61 in the Spanish capital to remain in first place. Madrid improved to 7-1 as Jaycee Carroll paced the winners with 17 points and Rudy Fernandez added 15. Boban Marjanovic totalled 21 points and 13 rebounds in defeat. The guests led 16-18 after 10 minutes, but Sergio Rodriguez and Carroll gave Madrid a double-digit margin, 40-29, at halftime and Los Blancos added to it the rest of the night. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv held on for a 73-70 victory over rival Panathinaikos Athens at Menora Mivtachim Arena. The result broke a tie between the teams for second place in Group E; Maccabi improved to 6-2, while Panathinaikos fell to 5-3. The Greens, who beat Maccabi by 7 in Athens in the Top 16 opener, protected that difference to earn a tiebreak advantage should the teams be tied at the end of the Top 16. The game was closely contested throughout; Panathinaikos drew within 1 twice in the fourth quarter, but Maccabi held on and sealed the win with late free throws from Jeremy Pargo and Joe Alexander. Pargo led the champs with 16 points. Former Maccabi player and two-time Euroleague champ David Blu was honored during the game and inducted in the Maccabi Tel Aviv Hall of Fame. Zalgiris Kaunas led from start to finish to beat visiting Galatasary Liv Hospital Istanbul 72-59. Zalgiris opened the game with an 18-3 lead and the visitors never came closer than 9 points the rest of the way. Paulius Jankunas led the winners with 12 points and 9 rebounds. On Friday, in another critical matchup, FC Barcelona (4-3) hosts ALBA Berlin (3-4). Barcelona is undefeated at home in the Top 16 and its last three wins have come by a double-digit margins. Only two teams score more points on their home floors than Barcelona (84.8), but ALBA is not coming waiving the white flag. The Berliners, coming off a road win in Tel Aviv, allow second-fewest points in the Top 16 (71.3), and have also defeated Barcelona at home 80-70 in Round 1.
Samardo Samuels put together one of the best Top 16 performances in Euroleague history to lead EA7 Emporio Armani Milan to a 76-85 road win at Nizhny Novgorod. Samuels missed just 3 shots in amassing 36- points, 9 rebounds and 12 fouls drawn. His performance index rating of 47 is tied for the third-best in Top 16 history. Samuels set a Top 16 record with 14 two-pointers made and set a Milan record for points in this competition. MarShon Brooks added 14 points for the winners, while Daniel Hackett tallied 12 points and 9 assists. The rest of the games in Group F will be played on Friday, and something will have to give in a high-profile clash in which CSKA Moscow (6-1) puts its undefeated home record on the line against the road warriors Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (5-2). It's the second meeting between a Fenerbahce head coach Zeljko Obradovic and his former long-time assistant, Dimitris Itoudis, whose CSKA tam has not lost at home this season, and has a streak of 20 home wins dating back to December 6, 2013 against – Fenerbahce. This year in the Top 16, CSKA is first in scoring (91.1) and three-point shooting (42.8%), second in assists (19.1) and blocks (4.7), while the backcourt duo of Nando De Colo (17.3 ppg) and Milos Teodosic (16.9 ppg) ranks third and fifth in scoring, respectively. Meanwhile, Fener arrives to Moscow having won seven consecutive road games. Only one team scores more points away from home this season than Fenerbahce's 81.4 per game. CSKA won their Round 1 game in Istanbul by 81-84, but if Obradovic's men continue as road warriors, a victory by 3 or more points would give them tie-break advantage and the upper hand in the standings. Group co-leader Olympiacos Piraeus (6-1) welcomes Unicaja Malaga (1-6) to Peace and Friendship Stadium where the Reds have been unbeaten this season and have won 12 in a row since last season's Top 16. Olympiacos allows the fewest points in the Top 16 (70.4), while ranking second in three-point shooting (40.5%) and fourth in assists (18.0). Unicaja, on the other hand, has not won on the road since the season opener at Cedevita, a run of seven consecutive defeats, despite ranking first in offensive rebounding (14.6). In a key matchup, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (4-3) hosts Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (3-4), which has won only one of eight games away from home. Having opened the Top 16 winning by 67-72 in Vitoria, another Efes victory would give it a virtual three-victory cushion over Laboral in the standings. Efes is third in steals (7.1) and three-point shooting (40.1%), and has second-fewest turnovers (10.6) in the Top 16. Laboral is ranked second in the Top 16 in offensive rebounding (13.7), third in steals (7.1), and ranks fourth in scoring with 81.7 points per night.
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